Count on Conti to topple Long Run
Man On The Spot previews all of the Channel 4 action from Ascot and Haydock and fancies Paul Nicholls to have a good day.
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A select but high-class renewal. Quincy Des Pictons appears outclassed but the other four are all of interest although all have delivered their best form on ground far quicker than the forecast conditions. Ghizao has clearly benefited from a breathing operation in the summer but this is far tougher than the race he easily landed on his Kempton reappearance. Captain Chris receives weight from his prime rivals and has every chance if delivering his best. However, the Hobbs yard are struggling for winners at present and he has become something of an enigmatic performer in recent runs. For Non Stop was massively impressive when blitzing his rivals in the Old Roan Chase but he only receives 4lb from the 2012 Champion Chase winner, FINIAN'S RAINBOW. Nicky Henderson's charge is a wonderfully uncomplicated sort who always runs his race at the top level and followed up his Champion Chase success when easily landing the 2m4f Melling Chase at Aintree. This first run might be the time to take him on but he undoubtedly sets a demanding standard for his rivals to meet and gets the vote.
David Pipe, who has won this for the past two years with Grands Crus and Dynaste, complicates matters here by saddling Knight Pass, who will probably just need this after an absence since the Cheltenham Festival, and the French import KATKEAU, who gets the nod. The five-year-old is having his first start for the yard after sluicing home in a handicap at Auteuil in heavy going during the summer and looks to have been let in lightly off a mark of 124. Trustan Times made a superb comeback to land a tough handicap at Wetherby but an 8lb rise and a stronger line-up may scupper his chances of a follow-up but Coral Cup winner Son Of Flicka will be better for his run at Aintree and has to be considered in a race that should be run to suit. Saphir River unseated his rider in the Coral Cup but bounced back with a victory over fences at Uttoxeter three weeks ago and though his future lies over the bigger obstacles he's well enough treated to make his presence felt here. Sivola De Sivola has been progressing nicely and ran well for a long way on his reappearance at Cheltenham so he's another to consider in a wide open event.
Another high-quality turnout in which Get Me Out Of Here and Brampour are weighted to finished upsides after finishing one-two on their respective seasonal reappearances. The former is taken to confirm placings though and also enjoys a fitness advantage over OSCAR WHISKY. However, the Henderson contender is a really top-notch contender and faces his optimum trip on this first run of the new campaign. He remains the one to beat on the best of his form and can score before going on to enjoy another successful campaign. The 2012 Scottish Champion Hurdle winner, Raya Star, continues to progress with racing and deserves a shot at this level. He will certainly not be inconvenienced by the soft ground as he scored under such conditions when landing The Ladbroke in 2011.
Race fitness, or the lack of it, will have a massive effect in these testing conditions. Weird Al reappeared last season to land the Charlie Hall before a fine run behind Kauto Star and Long Run in this. He ran no sort of race in the Gold Cup or the Grand National subsequently but may be best fresh so has to be considered. Long Run followed his run here by scoring at Newbury when The Giant Bolster was beaten 11l but lost his Gold Cup crown to Synchronised when David Bridgewater's stable star produced an outstanding effort to finish second. Long Run is taken to come out best on this occasion and looks the main threat. Cannington Brook loves it around here and is unbeaten in two runs. He has a huge amount to find on official ratings but very heavy ground could see him in the shake-up. Wayward Prince made a fine debut for owner/trainer Hilary Parrott in the Charlie Hall but had no answer to SILVINIACO CONTI. Paul Nicholls' charge was having his first start out of novice company at Wetherby and jumped superbly to win impressively. He's taking on much better rivals here but with fitness guaranteed he's expected to follow-up and land his first Grade 1.
Keep an eye on William's Wishes in the market on this first run after a lengthy absence but PEPITE ROSE is taken to get back on the winning trail here. Venetia Williams has enjoyed a tremendous month and her mare was arguably the stable success story of last season. She made a very pleasing reappearance when third here behind Gus Macrae at the last meeting and should be spot-on now. There seems no reason why she should not continue her upwardly mobile ways this term. Toubab has only enjoyed the five runs over fences and could progress into a very useful second-season chaser. He rates the main danger for the Nicholls team. Champion Court is consistency personified but this trip looks rather on the sharp side and Tanks For That is a likelier contender for the shortlist. He is not always the most consistent of performers but will be very dangerous if on a going day.
This will take some getting in the conditions but neither trip nor ground will be a concern for the incredibly tough Ballybough Gorta. He's been a revelation since joining Peter Bowen and has now won five of his last seven including when battling to victory over 3m here last month. Another 7lb rise takes him to 50lb higher than when gaining the first of those victories and this could prove a step too far. Wide Receiver has won over further than this and the assessor has given him a chance so he's expected to go well while Bellflower Boy is another who looks on a decent mark and can get competitive. MASTER OVERSEER always goes well fresh so the lack of a run shouldn't pose a problem. He's reappearing after landing the Midlands National at Uttoxeter in March and is taken to make a winning return to action. Trigger The Light is another coming back off a break and he was in fine form when last seen in the spring scoring at Warwick though his best form has been on quicker ground.